post

How To Train Your Droid

Let’s go back in time, all the way back to early¬†October, 2014. MadRim Productions was a mere fledgling enterprise, and our involvement and understanding of the maker movement was mostly limited to fantastical and intangible stories we’d read on the internet. Somehow Madison convinced the Colorado Maker Hub to grant us press status, so we slipped into the Rocky Mountain Center for Innovation and Technology free of charge.

Immediately, we were overwhelmed by the noise and activity. We had no idea where to start–the dinging of homemade pinball machines, trilling droids and robots, costumed humans cruising indoors on hand-crafted bicycles, tiny humans darting around and smashing computers to expose the shiny guts inside. Delightful chaos ruled the whole building, and everyone was more than willing to talk about their project, their involvement, their wide ranging interests. We captured footage until we ran out of battery power.

We spoke with members of the Loveland Creatorspace that first day. Madison and I gravitated toward Marshall Smith’s table, set up right next to Jamie Leben and the Creatorspace Minecraft display, which had attracted a crowd of excited kids. Next to Marshall’s table gurgled his project, an aquaponics display, a sustainable method of urban farming. Marshall is a Millennial entrepreneur, and one of the founding members of the Loveland Creatorspace. His involvement with the local makerspace enabled him to “make connections with people with a wide range of expertise.” He’s an active member of the Loveland community, participating in local business workshops and entrepreneurial networking. Access to makerspace equipment, such as 3D printers, has proved invaluable for Marshall’s company Newline, which has developed an automation device to improve aquaponics systems, making it easier for aquaponics owners to monitor the status and health of their water, plants, and fish. Aquaponics is a combination of two other fields: aquaculture, the farming of fish, and hydroponics, the farming of plants. Anyone can set up a tank in their home and sustainbly grow their own fish or plants for consumption or simply for aesthetic purposes.

Marshall welcomes us to the original Loveland Creatorspace.

Marshall welcomes us to the original Loveland Creatorspace.

The Creatorspace grants MadRim an informal after hours interview.

The Creatorspace grants MadRim an informal after hours interview.

Casey Kikendall is helping MadRim design a custom camera rig to fit a bicycle.

Casey Kikendall is helping MadRim design a custom camera rig to fit a bicycle.

Aquaponics is just one of many fields affected by the DIY revolution heralded in by the maker movement. Makerspaces and Fab Labs inspire individuals to realize their ideas. “Turning data into things,” as Neil Gershenfeld explains it. Anyone can walk into a makerspace with a concept and walk out with a prototype.

Jamie Leben is another founding member of Loveland Creatorspace.

Jamie Leben is another founding member of Loveland Creatorspace.

Loveland, Colorado is a fascinating town. Recently doffing its sleepy and quaint reputation, Loveland has experienced an awakening of sorts. A flood of artists and young entrepreneurs such as Marshall relocated to Loveland because it’s cheaper than both nearby Fort Collins and Boulder, but still offers all the pleasures of a small town: a walkable downtown, local eateries and breweries, a sculpture park.

Much like its home town, the Loveland Creatorspace has also received a recent makeover. Originally opened in March 2014, Marshall says they were always planning to move to a bigger space. When Madison and I first made their acquaintance, they were still located in the temporary space, but have since moved their operation to a 6000 square foot industrial/commercial building owned by the Erion Foundation, a Loveland organization which assists several local community projects and has always been a huge supporter of the Creatorspace. Over the past year, the new building has undergone renovations to prepare it for the Creatorspace community.

The Creatorspace move in progress.

The Creatorspace move in progress.

Marshall cites the permitting process as the most frustrating part of the move. Indeed, MadRim Productions intended to attend their big move, but a snafu with the sprinkler system approval delayed the move, and we were unable to make the rescheduled relocation. Still, they were able to move all the equipment and tools in one day, thanks to healthy community involvement and interest, including the cumbersome Tormach CNC mill, which took about a half dozen people to schlep down the street.

A month after the move, on January 9th, the Creatorspace hosted a Grand Opening, which drew a huge turnout. Both the Loveland Mayor and an aide from the office of Congressman Jared Polis patronized the event. Polis himself would have attended, but his presence was required in DC for the first week of the new congressional session. Polis has been active in his support of the maker movement and such community workshops as the Creatorspace. An active gamer and something of a self-proclaimed geek, Polis is a member of several Northern Colorado makerspaces, including the Loveland Creatorspace. His activism on behalf of the maker movement is tangible; President Obama has ever-increasing interest in sustainable industry, hosting the White House Maker Faire, and becoming the first president to 3D print his bust, instead of posing for a traditional portrait.

Now that the Creatorspace has completed its relocation, it can get back to the “projects we want to do that led to starting a space in the first place,” Marshall wrote me in an email. Lots of members are experimenting with 3D printing, additive and subtractive manufacturing, and LED lights. The space also offers a range of classes; anyone can teach anything, from introductory or advanced use of the equipment, to various technology concepts. Classes specifically designed for kids are also available.

Members setting up the LED sign.

Members set up the LED sign.

New to the Creatorspace are cubicles available for rent. Members who need a place to work long-term on a project can rent space by the square foot to work in and store materials. Marshall hopes this will help people transition their project ideas from mere hobby to actual business. Renting cubicles like this will also help provide a valuable source of operating revenue for the entire space.

Workshops like the Loveland Creatorspace are not only incredibly cool places to get your geek on, but also valuable community hubs. In a world with an ever growing population and ever diminishing resources, how we interact with our objects and space is critical. The maker movement will have far reaching political and economic impact. MadRim Productions has loved getting involved and getting to know the dynamic individuals who are changing our world for the better, and who are having fun doing it. In fact, we’ve lovelanded it. Natch!

Final two photos are courtesy of Marshall Smith.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *